Windows Phone 8 arrived in style last year, when mobile manufacturers HTC, Nokia and Samsung provided the first wave of compatible devices, all looking sharp and geared to take on the existing competition, so we’ve placed two of these new handsets under the microscope to see how they stack up against each other and the wider competition.

Before we proceed, we know that the official names of these two handsets are the Windows Phone 8S by HTC and Windows Phone 8X by HTC respectively, but they’re just too much of a mouthful to repeat time and again. Anyway, on with the comparison.

HTC 8S VS HTC 8X: Design

In our opinion, there aren’t a pair of more attractive looking handsets in the market right now, of course beauty is subjective, but it’s hard to argue with the soft touch plastic bodies, vibrant colour palettes and sculpted ‘pillow’ design. In fact both handsets are said to be inspired by the very live tiles found on the OS they run, which explains the squared look head on.

The 8X features a larger, solid unibody construction in a single block colour, whilst the smaller 8S features a dipped paint area on the lower portion of the body, covering both the back and front. Not only does this contrasting colour help differentiate it from its more powerful sibling at distance, but it also indicates a removable portion on the lower half of the phone’s back where the user can not only slip in a microSIM card, but a microSD card too.

Some shared hardware elements can also be found in rear camera and loudspeaker placement, each adorned with the Beats logo to boot. We’re always happy to see a hardware shutter button as well, which enables quick launch of the camera from sleep. The 8X wins out with regards to optics as it also makes use of a front-facing camera, omitted from the 8S’s design.

Both handsets look gorgeous and feel great in the hand, so either option will serve you well in this respect. Should the more gaudy colour options offend your eyes, both devices come in more refined black options too.

HTC 8S VS HTC 8X: Display

Despite the newer technology employed by the HTC 8X, the 8S’s 4-inch display does win out in some respects when the devices are placed side by side. The HTC 8S makes used a 4-inch S-LCD display with a WVGA (480x800) resolution, as used by all previous Windows Phone 7 handsets. The screen is bright and colourful with excellent viewing angles and great contrast with deep blacks, which on the whole means that it’s punching above its weight when compared to some of the Android-based rivals on offer for the same price.

Meanwhile the HTC 8X reaps the benefits of the new hardware allowances brought in by Microsoft with Windows Phone 8. The 4.3-inch panel on the 8X features a 720p HD (720x1280) resolution and S-LCD 2 technology which first wowed us on the HTC One X at the start of 2012. The fidelity of images and text on the 8X is noticeably superior (the 8X features 342ppi, whilst the 8S only has 233ppi) and colours blaze on the screen, however blacks don’t pack quite as much punch as with the 8S and brightness struggles at more extreme viewing angles, partly down to an overly reflective screen.

HTC 8S VS HTC 8X: Performance

Possibly the most surprising thing when weighing these two devices up is the consistency in the general user experience despite the drop in raw power at work in the lower-tier 8S. The flagship HTC 8X features a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor alongside 1GB of RAM, whilst the 8S’s processor is down-clocked to 1GHz and there’s half the amount of RAM on offer.

In true Windows Phone style, the user interface of both Windows Phone 8 handsets is super smooth and easy to navigate with the only notable additions to the stock experience being the HTC app and the option to toggle Beats audio in the Settings menu. HTC also bundle a handful of apps with each handset, the 8X getting the lion’s share, with some helpful inclusions like a currency converter and flashlight out-the-box. 3D gaming is also a go on both devices although the most demanding titles won’t be available for download on the 8S most likely due the lack of memory at its disposal, which can also be apparent on occasion in longer loading times between apps and slight UI stutters from time to time.

The imaging department on the 8X is fantastic, both cameras are usable, but the 8X’s 8-megapixel snapper, always produces the superior results, not only due to the added resolution, but the superior low-light performance, wide-angle lens and full 1080p HD video. The 5-megapixel camera on the 8S comes across as trying too hard; shots are over-sharpened and look artificial, whilst video output can only go as high as 720p.

HTC 8S VS HTC 8X: Verdict

Both the 8S and 8X feature strong designs and a fluid user experience, not to mention battery life for phones of this calibre outlasts many of the competition in real world use. Whilst the 8X naturally features some impressive specs, it’s its smaller counterpart: the HTC 8S that captures our attention. The size and weight in the hand are just right, the two-tone look makes it the more interestingly designed of the two handsets and the price on PAYG is around £170 less than the 8X meaning that for the hardware on offer, this phone is a steal.

HTC 8S VS HTC 8X

So long as you don’t mind Windows Phone’s smaller app catalogue, either choice won’t disappoint, but the 8S proves that good things come in small packages.